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Sunday, June 29, 2008

I have to tell you right up front that helicopters are a sore point with me.  No.  Let me re-phrase that:  helicopter pilots are a sore point with me.
Bear with me for a moment while I get this off my chest.  Arlington Muni, the home drome, was one of the sites of the late but not lamented Silver State Helicopters.  Oh, we've had helicopters for a long time, but not in concentrated doses like with SSH.  I'll let SSH die its painful and probably criminal financial death and let it go at that except to say that they did more to raise the hackles on airplane pilots hereabouts than anything I've ever seen in aviation--and in a very short time, too.  How?  By taking the attitude that they had the right of way at all times, that everyone else was just going to have to fit into their modus operandi, that runways and taxiways are really for helicopters and only secondarily for airplanes, that their stealth mode invisible grey paint (it rains a bit around here and the skies have occasionally been known to be severely overcast for prolonged periods--perfect camouflage for dark grey helicopters, even with their cloaking devices in the "off" position) was exactly how every helicopter should be painted, an insistence on flying traffic patterns (why would you want to fly a rectangular pattern in a helicopter?) that interesected with airplane patterns, and cutting off airplanes while they were at it, resulting in more than a few near-misses with airplanes and even gliders etc. 
I'll give them credit for a couple of things, tho.  They did paint a single blade on a couple of their rotors white, which helped some, and later they got a yellow helicopter, so they weren't entirely uncooperative. And with all their incessant radio chatter I finally learned the names of all the taxiways and intersections on the airport.  And they were absolutely right that FAR and AIM are virtually silent on helicopter operations, so no rules against their practices.  Except the rule that says needlessly endangering and pissing off people is just plain stupid.
So SSH is gone, good riddance, but their legacy lingers.  Seems now the monkey see monkey do factor is in force--if SSH did it, evey helicopter pilot seems to think that's the way to do it--even guys that formerly were perfectly sensible and cooperative!  Things like long straight-in approaches at about 50 knots (KAWO is an uncontrolled, er, "un-towered," ha ha, airport), followed by a prolonged hover over the numbers, then a hover-taxi the length of the runway (to where they're almost invisible at the far end), followed by a leisurely liftoff and pattern back to the runway, or maybe a taxiway (you never really can tell for sure until they're about ready to actually touch down) do it again, repeat, repeat again, dc al fine, do not pass go, don't collect $200.00, maybe throw in an autorotation or two through interesecting traffic flows, all the while completely pissing off every airplane pilot in sight.
In nearly forty years of pre-SSH flying I had never seen helicopters operate like that--hope I never do again!  Alas, "Phoenix" Rotorways (get it?  ha ha) is trying to resurrect the SSH torch, so the dog just won't die.  Worse, PR doesn't have their own fuel truck like SSH, so they want to land in the middle of a gaggle of airplanes at the pump, rotor blades flashing within inches of airplanes, pumps, windows, people etc., stirring up a big wind that just about blows half the airplanes away and then take off with a big flourish just to rub their arrogance and stupidity in.  Sheeesh!  Maybe part of the training for helicopter pilots should be a required Dale Carnegie course in acceptable behavior at the sandbox!  Come on, guys, can't you see that a little common courtesy and horse sense would go a very long way? 
Show a modicum of consideration will ya?  Please?  Let SSH die its welcome death!  We'd like to be friends.
9:23 pm pdt

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Company LogoWild Blue Aviation
Hangar 28
18228 59th Dr. NE, Arlington, WA, 98223 USA
Arlington Municipal Airport (KAWO)
mail to:  1521 Wetmore Ave., Everett, WA 98201-2057, USA
phone 425-876-0865